Moving beyond prejudgements and questions to embracing the person in all their rainbow colours.
– By Namrata Gupta
Not normal’, ‘it will get better with time’, ‘just experimenting’, ‘just a phase’, ‘they look odd’ are some of the many reactions to being queer you might have heard.
We like to believe of ourselves as individuals with independent thinking and a reasonable sense of judgment, a mind not easily influenced. As you read this article, I would like you to be with me, keeping all prejudgements aside for the time being and suspend societal beliefs and biases that each one of us carry within, many we haven’t even come to terms with yet.
Did you go back home and think of this as fodder for gossip, to banter about, laugh over as something trivial, and just in fashion these days, or did it make you pause and ask yourself as to why you have been carrying such judgemental views about queer individuals, or did you without any second thought just say to yourself, ‘I told you so’ backing up your thought and justifying your behaviour of indifference and hate.
What is it that matters the most in life?
I would like you to reflect upon what it is that you want most for you in your life? Here I am not asking about the tangible and that which is material.
What is it that you wish for someone you know, friends and family alike?
My answer to these questions is loving relationships with understanding and kindness for one and another where I can show up just as I am, without the struggle to stay afloat or accept myself and feel belonged.
Healthy relationships play a vital role in living a fulfilled life, they form the bedrock of any given individual’s life and of a progressively growing society and world.
Have you ever asked yourself how a loved one ceases to exist, the affection and all the stories you lived together with just blurs overnight? All that you liked about them, rather may have adored, fades away and you begin to question them, all of them?
Loneliness is known to be the biggest evils, which swallows an entire being in darkness.
For the most part we all want our close ones to be happy, lead a fulfilling life and yes, we all have individual choices.
Why then, should the rules for sexuality be any different?
If you have heard of ‘homosexuality’ falling in the category of ‘mental illness’, as a practising Clinical Psychologist I can tell you, nothing could be far from the truth.
Being homosexual is a natural way of being as natural as being a heterosexual. It is definitely not an illness, nor a side effect, nor a result of a bad upbringing, certainly it does not need to be altered any which way, needs no treatment or any kind of correction.
So, at the outset I must say: STOP blaming yourself or those around you, stop pointing fingers, stop looking for quick fixes or cures whatsoever, no matter who it is, you yourself, your family, friends and acquaintances, people you come across at your workplace, neighbourhood.
Looking at the beginnings
Homosexuality has existed as far back as we go in our evolution to the present times. The ancient civilisations have adorned it more often than not, its expression has been found in early centuries, and since the coming empires.
So how did all this ostracisation, labelling of homosexuality, deeming it an illness begin?
The categorisation of homosexuality as a mental illness was born out of multiple systems of power.
Same sex attraction and relationships have existed in Indian culture for centuries. However, homosexuality was considered a crime under Indian Penal Code, enacted in 1861 by British rulers who found it objectionable. American legal system criminalised homosexual behaviour, which is also just an event in history now.
The beginning of putting humans into boxes of physical traits and sexual orientation is a modern concept, not very old if we go back in time, just over 100 years old. Historians suggest it as being a very European concept of the 19th century.
For varied political reasons and vested interests, people in power have influenced the narrative and thereafter what has been considered to become the ‘norm’.
Cultural and religious reasons have been bent to frame and cited, and religious texts have been misinterpreted and similar has been misused to coerce people, create panic and fear.
The multidimensional nature of sexuality, which distinguishes between desire, behaviour and identity, is slowly gaining acceptance in Indian society as the rest of our world.
Social structures and circumstantial narratives have favoured those who came in with an upper hand be it money, places of power, or those viewed in favour making majority or the society in question.
Social psychology with evidence of robust researches over decades supports the fact that we humans, as part of our wiring and evolutionary process, want to be liked and feel belonged. Othering/us versus them has become part of our thought process due to instilled social and political fears, inherent sense of deficit we continuously grapple with and various biases in our perception.
But do you know?
The American Psychiatric Association in 1973, and the World Health Organization in 1992, officially accepted its normal variant status.
The Supreme Court of India on 6 September 2018 struck down the oppressive Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which was a giving of colonial era as a lot of other parts of our legal system still are. This also wasn’t a single event coming to fruition but years of struggle both in and outside the courts.
Essentially this meant decriminalising same-sex relations between consenting adults. LGBTQIA+ individuals are now legally allowed to engage in consensual intercourse.
Year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the American Psychiatric Association’s removal of homosexuality from its Diagnostic Manual in 1973.
All big changes that have been possible in our history as ‘Human Kind’ are changes that started with a few people who chose not to live a life but were just compromising with the given circumstances.
If you would like to continue deriving power from making people around you feel less and powerless, raking the fires of stigma and being part of making others deem unfit to be part of your social circles dehumanising another being, to have a false sense of superiority and maintain a status quo, it’s time to ask ‘why are you patronising’ and affiliating to such groups – be it community, religious or political groups.
An example of such a unit, a smaller version of a society is family, one which a child is born into. The strength of a given society is a sense of larger collective where each person is celebrated for their uniqueness and individuality, a sense of togetherness, support and belongingness it provides.
Would you like one of your own to feel lonely, despite having family and friends around yet, struggling all by themselves and feeling isolated?
LGBTQIA+ community individuals undergo pain and suffering at the behest of just ‘being’ and ‘expressing’ who they naturally are. They are made to feel shame, discriminated, and subjected to bullying on a daily basis. This is bound to make any individual question their own self, their sense of identity, and question their existence. This experience of discrimination and humiliation is not a one day thing rather a continuous traumatic experience.
Phenomenon of labelling, stereotyping, internalised homophobia, blocking of opportunities, isolation, continuous sense of deprivation, restricted access to essential medical services, legal aids, job opportunities has to become obsolete now. Both overt and sublime actions of hate and differentiation by one’s own and larger society in the name of good, and manipulated ways of showing support have to stop now. Such daily ordeals of survival pushes individuals of all age groups into cycles of suffering and mental health issues.
In different eras, the media has played multitude of roles in the portrayal of queer people, the community and their lives, from making it a topic to mock about to the present. Media has become a vital carrier to portray LGBTQIA+ community members their lived experiences, their rights of freedom and dignity with a growing sense of sensitivity and understanding. With social media at our disposal, let’s choose it as a collective to make good use of it to show understanding and support for LGBTQIA+ members and not the other way.
Until the change is instilled in each section of the society, locally, rural/urban, globally, we in our own spaces can keep a check on the loose remarks, derogatory behaviour, avoid cutting corners to show up for our loved ones and people passing by in public spaces and workplace.